Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Crazy Wind And A Beautiful Sky

The weather is a little crazy here right now, but if it can produce views like this, bring on the crazy!

image

Best Man Speech

I recently had to give a best man speech at a wedding.  Believing that anything worth doing is worth going overboard, it was longer than the actual ceremony.  I was also really nervous which is strange for me, but I think it only manifested itself in shaky hands.  Despite that, it was fairly well received so I thought I’d share it with the world so that all may bask in my ability to speak words from paper.  It’s like 1500 words so I’ll put it below the fold.  A quick note, the stuff in parenthesis were not spoken but I added them in because it will makes more sense to the reader who doesn’t have the benefit of seeing my awesome acting ability.  It starts:

Continue reading

The Speed Of Light Slows Down

Once upon a time, there was a blast of neutrinos detected on Earth, followed three hours later by another blast of neutrinos.  7.7 hours after the initial blast, a star brightened in the tell-tale signs of a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud.  This is highly unusual because neutrinos and photons both travel at the speed of light and while it is known that photons spend the first 3 or so hours bouncing around inside a supernova, there’s still 4.7 hours unaccounted for.  Since scientists couldn’t explain the arrival time difference, they dismissed it as two separate occurrences even though the probability of them being related is quite high.

Now, scientists have a mathematical solution for the time difference.  Basically, it goes like this.  Neutrinos for the most part do not interact with matter at all.  They can go right through the Earth as if it were empty space.  Photons are not so lucky.  They can be bent by gravity, they can run into matter, and they can cease to be photons for miniscule moments of time to form an electron-positron pair.  The latter is where things get interesting.  An electron-positron pair suddenly has mass that can be much more affected by gravity than a lone photon.  It last for no time at all before going back to a photon, but scientists found that this new gravitational potential of the electron-positron pair corresponds to the missing 4.7 hours.

This is fascinating because a quantum mechanical effect has been combined with a relativistic effect to produce a result.  If this explanation for the missing 4.7 hours is correct, could this discovery lead us down the path of other discoveries that will lead to a unified field theory?  I also wonder what this means for our calculations of distances of objects.  If the Large Magellanic Cloud is 4.7 light hours farther away than previously thought at 160,000 light years distance, how much farther away is UDFj-39546284 at 13,370,000,000 distance?  What if the effect isn’t linear?

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

“Frankenstein” is not at all what I expected.  And, yes, I was well aware that the popular fiction versions of the movie were nothing like the original book.  The novel reads more like a travelogue than a story about a man who created a monster and reaped what he sowed.  It is a well written travelogue to be sure, but a good portion of the prose is spent describing the journeys from place to place.

Interspersed in between the travelogue are some fascinating psychological insights into both Victor Frankenstein and his Monster.  I’m sure massive bottles of ink have been spilled arguing back and forth on the plight of both Victor and his Monster.  If anyone can recommend a good one, I’d happily accept your recommendation.  They are both interesting characters and, while I sympathize somewhat with both, I think Victor is much more of a dick than the Monster.  The monster’s motives make sense throughout, while Victor warbles back and forth feeling both sympathy and hatred for his creation.

All that’s great stuff, but the story itself is lacking a good editor.  It inexplicably begins with a long introduction to a character, Captain Walton, who plays zero role in the book whatsoever except to accidentally meet Victor while trapped in his boat on the icy Arctic.  Again, it’s kind of cool and well written, but why is it even there?

I was also surprised at how little time was spent establishing Victor’s abhorrence for the Monster.  Man brings body parts together.  Man animates body parts.  Man can’t stand the sight of what he’s created.  Run away!

Another thing that bothered me was how much of the story was left to simple chance and willful ignorance.  There are many times when Victor could have easily created a pitchfork mob (but with guns!) and hunted down the Monster.  (And, by the way, there is not a single pitchfork mob to be had in this book.  Oh, popular culture, how far astray you have led me!)  But the biggest problem for is Victor’s complete misreading of the situation when all evidence both past and present point to a very obvious conclusion.  I guess it could be argued that Victor’s path to insanity lead him to believe what he did, but the only acceptable conclusion that I can come to is that Victor is a narcissist of the highest order.

“Frankenstein” was not an enjoyable read, but neither was it horrible.  There is a lot of literary juice to be squeezed from it for those with the propensity to do so.  It is a rare book that makes me want to read literary criticism of it and “Frankenstein” succeeded in doing that.  In the end, though, I read for enjoyment, and this book was only a moderately enjoyable one.

Movie Review: Edge Of Tomorrow

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: A gripping, fun adventure that fails slightly in the third act.

When you go into a movie whose premise is time travel, you try not to get your hopes up.  “Edge of Tomorrow” sounded so cool from the previews, though, that my hopes were up and I am happy to report that the movie didn’t disappoint.

Most of Europe has been taken over by an alien species.  Tom Cruise plays Cage, a major in the U.S. army who starts the movie much like I’d expect Tom Cruise to be in real live; smarmy, manipulative, and just a general asshole.  Through a series of events that I won’t spoil, Cage ends up repeating the same day over and over again.  The montage of him performing this Groundhog Day makes for some really entertaining film viewing.

Cage eventually runs into Rita, played most bad assedly by Emily Blunt, who had once experienced the same thing Cage is now experiencing.  She eventually ends up training Cage to be as bad assed as she is and with the help of a theoretical physicist, they hatch a plan to defeat the aliens once and for all.

An interesting thing about living the same day over and over again is that you get to learn a lot about the people you interact with on that day, but they learn nothing about you.  Thus, Cage falls in love with Rita, but she keeps on just meeting Cage for the first time.  It was very cool how they developed this relationship even if the director decided to go the complete cop out feel good ending route.  Stupid test audiences.

The movie keeps up a pretty good pace throughout except for some slowdown in the third act.  They spend a little too much time on the day where Cage decides to go completely off script and visit London instead of joining the battle.  I also would have liked that day to end a different way, but that’s a small complaint for a decent movie about time travel.  There are some weird “oh, but this is what the enemy wanted us to do all along” problems with the movie that don’t really make sense when you stop to think about it, but the movie moves quick enough to make this stuff not really matter too much.

All in all, “Edge of Tomorrow” is an entertaining movie that kept my interest throughout.  You should go see it.

Movie Review: Maleficent

Jean-Paul’s Rating : 2/5 stars

Bottom Line: A much improved second and third act can’t save this sloppy retelling of a classic Disney villain.

This movie is purportedly supposed to be about the true telling of a story that got twisted to make Maleficent look like the bad guy.  I guess it delivers at that, but it does so so entirely sloppily that it insults the intelligence of anyone above ten years old and draws on so many stereotypes of women that even girls below ten years old should be insulted.

In the beginning, young Maleficent is the goodest of the goodie two shoes.  She heals the trees and is loved by all the fairy folk and has powerful wings that allow her to soar quickly across crappily drawn special effect backgrounds.  She is also, for reasons unexplained, the only of the fairy folk to be entirely human-like besides having the wings and the pointy ears and the impossibly high cheekbones.  She also always wears lipstick.  Even as a ten-year old.  Who is a fairy.  The mortal enemies of the fairy folk are the humans who hate the fairies because…well, just because that’s what humans do.

But then the human boy, Stefan, comes around and they fall in love.  They then wait until Disney thinks it is ok for teenagers to kiss which happens to be sixteen years of age.  Since they kissed, they are obviously in love.  But it wasn’t meant to be because Stefan soon disappears to pursue humanly pursuits like becoming king even though that’s not at all how kings are chosen.  This paragraph is just as long as they spend explaining the nascent love affair.

Because, as I mentioned before, the humans hate the fairies, one of the human kings decides to attack the fairies.  He does this because, and I kid you not, he made a campaign promise to his people.  Led by Maleficent, the fairies lay blood free waste to the human army.  Gotta keep that PG rating.  The fairies are so much more powerful than the humans that only a complete idiot would ever even consider attacking them.

Now, sorely defeated and dying from his wounds, the King declares that anyone who kills Maleficent will be the next King.  Enter Stefan, once again, who happens to be a pot-boy or something to the king.  He runs to Maleficent to warn her that the King has put a price on her head.  The intervening years just melt away and they quickly fall in love once again.  But, oh ho, what’s this?  Stefan isn’t really in love and he feeds Maleficent a potion that puts her into a deep sleep.  Why doesn’t he just feed her a deadly poison?  Well because then he couldn’t have second thoughts about stabbing her to death in her sleep, of course!  So instead, he cuts off her wings because that’s much more humane.

Thus, does Stefan become king and Maleficent immediately become pure evil.  Her evilness is mostly confined to taking over and enslaving the fairy folk in vague, non-descriptive ways, because isn’t that just like a woman to redirect her rage towards those that don’t deserve it?  Am I right, fellas?  Maleficent continues her exclusive, ambiguous, fairy reign of terror until the birth of King Stefan’s daughter, Aurora.

Maleficent curses Aurora to be beautiful and loved by all and sugar and spice and everything nice until her sixteenth birthday when she shall prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into eternal slumber until awakened by true love’s kiss.  This causes King Stefan to destroy every spinning wheel in the country and to send Aurora to live with three fairies.  There are innumerable problems with this.  Why would he trust any fairy?  They are also quite obviously three of the stupidest beings alive.  They are also three of the most annoying beings alive.  They are also only one foot tall.  And, slightly besides the point, they are also the creepiest humanesque fairies that computer generated special effects has ever devised.  But, no, here you creepy, idiotic, annoying, anthropomorphic fairies, take my daughter and hide her away from no threat whatsoever for the next sixteen years.  I get that the fairies are there for comic relief, but these are the most piss poor comic relief characters ever devised by Disney.  They should be ashamed of themselves.

Finally, after all of this, the story starts to get, well, not good, but decent.  It should come as no surprise that this also happens to coincide with the retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty.  Of course, Its not the same as the original story since it is told from Maleficent’s point of view.  I won’t go much into this part except to say that while it is sort of saccharine, it’s effective and we finally get some good acting in the movie from Angelina Jolie as Maleficient and Elle Fanning as Aurora.  The movie continues to be decent until the very end.

Ugh, the ending.  “Maleficent” should be shown in art classes everywhere as an example of how many different ways you can screw up the ending of a movie.  First off, everyone lives happily ever after.  Including Maleficent.  It makes absolutely no sense for her to live in this story, since she did die in “Sleeping Beauty”.  Second, Aurora still appears to get the Prince even though he was more a side joke in the movie instead of a driver of the story.  This is Disney, so every girl needs a prince I guess.  Third, Aurora becomes queen of the fairies because…that’s what little girls dream of I guess.  Fourth, the whole point of the movie was to drive home the point that there are two sides of the story and you shouldn’t necessarily trust the first one you hear, but in this case one of them is so obviously verifiably false since Maleficent still exists in one whereas in the other she’s dead.  If “Maleficent” were true, “Sleeping Beauty” was told by the losers and “Sleeping Beauty” happened to get out there as truth despite all evidence to the contrary.  The problem is that there has never been an instance of the losing side of a battle being able to propagate a false story.  In order to make the telling of “Maleficent” make any sense whatsoever, the story of “Sleeping Beauty” must be true except that Maleficent didn’t actually die.  Instead she was able to sneak away and eventually capture both Aurora and Prince Phillip and ensorcell them both into telling the untrue tale of “Maleficent”.  I kind of like that thought.